Donald Pidgeon was born the youngest child of William James Pidgeon and Marjorie Black 1. Growing up, family was important to Don and his siblings Thelma, Rita, and Bill, and is equally important today. Although his children are spread across the globe, Don and his wife Nadia (Ewasiechko) are always in touch with their children James and Jennifer (Emile) and their granddaughter Romy.
Don grew up in Griffintown, living there from 1940 to 1966, and has resided in Dorval since 1973. He had a 35 year career in retail before retiring in 1996.
Don joined the United Irish Societies of Montreal in 1968, where he quickly became involved with the organization’s activities, moving up the ladder from year to year. From 1972-75 he served as the organization’s Recording Secretary before serving as Vice President in 1976-77 and, finally, as President from 1978-79. On November 16, 1986 President Bernard Woffenden informed the United Irish Societies’ membership that his vice president had resigned. Past President Don Pidgeon was appointed vice president on an interim basis until elections were held2, an extraordinary situation to say the least.
Despite Don’s involvement at the highest levels of the organization, he is undoubtedly best known as the historian of the United Irish Societies, serving the organization in this key role from 19913 to May 2015. Walking in the footsteps of such luminaries as John Loye, John J. Kenny and John “Jake” McConomy, Don performed exceptionally in this role. He was a Member of the Irish Committee for Grosse Isle in 1992 and between 1992 and 1994 he negotiated improvements at the Black Stone Monument and lot on Bridge St.
He has written many interesting articles, has educated the membership of the United Irish Societies through the reports he has presented at countless general meetings, and has been most accommodating in his willingness to speak to interested students, community members, and the media alike.
Additionally Don served on the organization’s original Nominating Committee, which was constituted by President Sheila Showers to process nominations for positions on the Elected Executive. This committee was chaired by Past President Bob McKay, included past presidents Mabel Fitzgerald and Don Pidgeon, and members Gail Sheehan and Michael McCambridge.
To celebrate the United Irish Societies of Montreal’s 80th anniversary, with the financial support of his friend Terry Corcoran from National Criminal Investigation Service Don put together a self-published book detailing the history of the United Irish Societies. All proceeds from the sale of these books were forwarded to the Shriner’s Hospital for Disabled Children in Montreal.
Don Pidgeon has received every honour the United Irish Societies has to offer. In March 1994 Don served as the Grand Marshal of the 170th Consecutive St. Patrick’s Parade. He was the Recipient of the Simon McDonaugh Humanitarian Award in 2004 in recognition of the good work he performs in the community. In April 2005 outgoing president Sheila Showers presented Don with Gold Card Membership. He received the Liam Daly Heritage Award in 2010 for everything he does to promote Irish culture and heritage in Montreal and, in 2013, he served the 190th Consecutive St. Patrick’s Parade as the Chief Reviewing Officer. Never shy in front of a camera or a microphone, prior to the beginning of the 2013 Saint Patrick’s Parade, Don was interviewed on camera by political satirist and comedian Rick Mercer for the humorous story produced about Montreal’s Saint Patrick’s Parade for The Rick Mercer Report on Canada’s national broadcaster, the CBC.
On January 20, 2013 at a United Irish Societies General Meeting at Saint John Brebeuf Church in the Borough of LaSalle Don announced that the cancer he has so valiantly battled has returned4, which subsequently caused Don to scale back his activities. Despite Don’s decreased availability, he continued to be a valuable resource to all members of the United Irish Societies as its Historian.
On Tuesday May 12th, 2015 President Danny Doyle revealed to those in attendance at the Elected Executive & Past Presidents Meeting that Don has decided that the time was right to step aside as the organization’s historian. A motion was passed at this meeting bestowing on Don the honorary title of Historian Emeritus in recognition of the many years of service as the organization’s historian, which Don accepted with gratitude.
Outside the Irish community, Don has always kept busy. He was a member of the now-defunct St. Ann’s Young Men’s Society, a key Griffintown organization.
Don has been a member of the Knights of Columbus Council 284 since 1986, Member of Knights of Columbus 4th Degree D’Arcy McGee Assembly since 1994, a Navigator 4th Degree in 1997, and was named an Honorary Life Member of the Knights of Columbus in 2011.
In addition to everything else Don is involved in he is a member of the St. Patrick’s Soup Kitchen since 1994, helping feed on a weekly basis some of the most disadvantaged people in the downtown area. For a time Don also served as a Director of Catholic Community Services.
His volunteer activities have been recognized outside the Irish community. In 1995 he was the recipient of the Multicultural Award from the Leclerc Institute.
For all that Don has done for decades in and for the Irish community, it is he who has honoured us. Our children and our children’s children will benefit from the knowledge he has shared with students and community members alike.
Ken Quinn, Historian
1 Quebec, Vital, and Church Records, Drouin Collection
2 History of the United Irish Societies (1928 – 2008), Don Pidgeon
3 Don Pidgeon’s Bio, March 2015
4 Minutes of the General Meeting held January 20, 2013